ALPINE SKIING Siblings make history with same-day wins
Janica and Ivica Kostelic both won World Cup races on Sunday.
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) -- Janica and Ivica Kostelic were already heroes in Croatia. Now they've made history by becoming the first siblings to win World Cup alpine races on the same day.
"You can't touch them!" yelled 19-year-old fan Vanja Rebic, one of the hundreds of thousands of Croats who watched as the races were replayed over and over again Sunday in bars and cafes.
"They're out of this world."
Janica began the day with a resounding slalom victory in Bormio, Italy, finishing 2.08 seconds ahead of Austria's Elisabeth Goergl. After receiving cake and a toast at the finish line to celebrate her birthday -- she turned 21 on Sunday -- Janica and her father then watched on television as her brother captured another slalom in Kranjsjka Gora, Slovenia, less than an hour later.
"It's a great day for our family," said Janica, the younger and more prolific winner in the family. "It's a strange record indeed, but I'm pleased with it. What Ivica has done means a lot because we've spoken for years about winning a race on the same day.
"And it's great it happened on my birthday. He couldn't have given me a better present."
Croatian sports commentator Ivan Blazicko hailed the day as "another unforgettable day bestowed upon us by the unforgettable Kostelics."
Even Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan joined the well-wishers, sending separate congratulatory letters, praising their "spirit and motivation."
Last year, Janica and Ivica both won on the same weekend, each taking slaloms in the World Cup finals in Flachau, Austria.
Some 15 sets of siblings have won races since the creation of the World Cup almost 40 years ago, but none ever won a race on the same day. The closest any came was on Feb. 8, 1983, in St. Anton, Austria, when American Steve Mahre won a World Cup slalom while brother Phil won the combined, a paper event computed from his performances in the downhill and the slalom.
The American Cochran family was the only to boast three World Cup winners on the tour, with Barbara and Marylin each recording three career victories in the technical events in the early 1970s, and brother Bob winning a giant slalom at home in Heavenly Valley in the 1973 World Cup finals.
The Kostelics have both enjoyed their share of success this season, with Ivica claiming a new night knockout slalom in Sestrieres, Italy, two weeks ago and topping the discipline standings, and Janica leading the women's World Cup overall and slalom rankings after five victories.
However, over the years, Janica has generally stolen the spotlight, winning the World Cup overall in 2001 and becoming the first Alpine skier to capture four medals in a single Olympics. She also has a commendable 23 World Cup victories to her name.
The two, who are coached by father Ante Kostelic, had been in position to set a record in Salt Lake City as the first brother-sister team in 22 years to win Alpine skiing medals at the same Olympics.
Janica did her part, winning the slalom, giant slalom and combined event and getting the silver in the super giant slalom -- becoming the first Alpine skier to capture four medals in a single Olympics -- but Ivica missed a gate in the men's slalom.
The Kostelics are icons in Croatia and their rise from poverty and gloom to fame and stardom has become a fable for children in the country of 4.5 million, which is struggling to emerge from the ravages of war after it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Janica's Salt Lake performance drew tears to the eyes of many, who recalled her hobbling on crutches from damaged knee ligaments only months before the races.
"The Kostelics are setting international standards for skiing in a country where most people don't even get to see snow during winter," marveled Mirela Dabic, a housewife in Zadar on the Dalmatian coastline. "They are not normal."
Sunday's win marked Janica's fifth of the season.
She completely dominated the field, posting the fastest time in both runs. The 2.08-second margin over Goergl was the biggest margin of victory in a women's slalom since 1973, when France's Danielle Debernard won by 2.12 seconds in Naeba, Japan.
Ivica led after the opening leg and had a total time of 1 minute, 44.71 seconds on the badly rutted course to record his second straight victory. Austria's Rainer Schoenfelder was second in 1:44.98 and Olympic slalom champion Jean-Pierre Vidal of France was third in 1:45.03.
"I didn't watch her race because I was preparing for my race," Ivica said. "But we had a guy on the team watching the TV and telling us the times over the radio. When I heard Janica had won by two seconds I was jumping up and down in joy."
The two will have another chance to win on the same day on Jan. 19 when the men race a slalom in Wengen, Switzerland, and the women compete in a giant slalom in Cortina, Italy.